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In response to cold weather, volunteers are using a traditional craft, knitting, to make enormous garments for elephants in India.
Roger Allen/SilverHub
Jim McMahon
Even with volunteers working in teams, it takes a month to complete a single elephant-sized sweater.
Roger Allen/SilverHub
Knitting for a Cause
Volunteers make sweaters for elephants in India.

BY ALEXANDRA FRANKLIN | FOR SCHOLASTIC ART

It isn’t often that zookeepers call on craftspeople for help. But cold weather at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Center in northern India was putting elephants at risk. So the center’s staff joined forces with locals to find a creative way to keep the animals warm. Now the elephants are stepping out in style, thanks to volunteers who harnessed their crafting talents to knit enormous sweaters to protect the animals.

RESCUING GIANTS

Wildlife SOS is a conservation group that has been taking action against animal cruelty and saving wildlife in distress since 1995. Their Elephant Conservation and Care Center is dedicated to rescuing the gentle giants from abuse and exploitation in circuses, illegal trafficking, and other circumstances where they have been neglected or treated with extreme cruelty. There are currently 20 elephants living at the center, and the staff hopes to take in 50 more of the creatures this year.

A TALL ORDER

Because most of the elephants housed at the center are recovering from injuries or are elderly and weak, they are particularly vulnerable to cold temperatures. When staff reported near-freezing nighttime temperatures this winter, volunteers from surrounding villages began knitting and crocheting enormous sweaters to keep the elephants warm. The monumental sweaters, which are large enough to cover the elephants’ backs, bellies, and legs, are vibrant and cheerful.

Making the sweaters is a big undertaking—each one takes approximately four weeks to create, with volunteers working together on the massive garments. The knitters incorporate traditional stitches using thick yarn. Centered on a common, compassionate goal, the project helps foster a sense of community in all who participate.

This article originally appeared on the website for Scholastic Art magazine on February 13, 2017.